Malagacy grew up beating Rebel Stakes foes at Oaklawn Park on Saturday punching his ticket to the Kentucky Derby. He ran his record to a perfect three for three and earned 50 points toward making the gate at Churchill Downs the first Saturday in May.
The way Todd Pletcher’s trainee Malagacy grew up Saturday is that he used his natural talent. He showed tactical speed and that is always a plus moving forward.
As the race unfolded, Uncontested made the lead and he did his best in the Rebel Stakes. He recorded a :23.02 quarter, a :47.04 half-mile and he still had a length lead after six furlongs in 1:11.35. At the top of the stretch Malagacy, under jockey Javier Castellano, grew up by taking control and putting his head in front. He kicked clear late to get the mile and a sixteenth in 1:43 flat.
Uncontested faded to eight while the longest shot on the tote board, Sonneteer, came from second to last to run second at 112-1. Untrapped completed the trifecta.
It was a great training feat by Keith Asmussen with the maiden Sonneteer while Untrapped now has never run out of the money in his five starts.
Castellano is arguably the best jockey in the country and he knows what to look for with a good horse. He is 24% in the last year when he rides for Pletcher and he had nothing but positives to say after the race, Castellano: “I was really satisfied with the way he did it. He did it the right way. When I asked him turning for home, he took off.”
Sure, Malagacy grew up beating his Rebel foes but his trainer always had confidence in him, Pletcher: “He was so impressive in his first 2 starts and it wasn’t a question of talent. It was a question of handling different things like shipping. He handled that well. The question was stretching out around two turns and stepping up into Graded stakes company.”
The disappointment was the favorite American Anthem, who is trained by Bob Baffert. The trainer has basically owned this race in the last few years and the runner was hung out wide on the first turn and just gave way badly. American Anthem was ridden by Hall of Famer Mike Smith. The jockey was not happy with his racer’s trip, Smith: “He slipped really bad leaving there in behind and stayed that way the whole race. He just struggled for whatever reason.”
Granted, Malagacy grew up beating his rivals but he will be tested moving forward. The next logical step will be the 9-furlong Arkansas Derby on April 8. The newest star on the horizon will train up to that race in Florida.
As far as the 1:43 final time of the Rebel, it has to be compared to the other stakes run at that distance on Saturday. Older fillies and mares in the $350,000 Azeri Stakes ran earlier in the card at the same distance and the winning time was 1:43.67. Males ran the same distance a couple of races before the Rebel in the $250,000 Essex Handicap. Bob Baffert’s Mor Spirit won that race and was clocked in a quick 1:41.62.
The track record at Oaklawn Park for a mile and a sixteenth is 1:40.20. It was recorded by Heatherten in 1984.
Malagacy earned a 91 Beyer Speed Figure for his success story Saturday. Last year Cupid recorded a 95 Beyer. In 2015 American Pharoah won the Rebel with a 100 Beyer. In 2014 Hoppertunity was awarded a 99 Rebel Beyer.
As far as Malagacy’s pedigree is concerned, his sire Shackleford showed his talent winning the Preakness Stakes on his way to earning over $3 million. His dam was unraced but she is a sibling to multiple stakes winner and near $600,000 earner Impossible Time.
Malagacy’s dam also dropped double route winner and over $100,000 earner Yanbian Express.
Having Pletcher in the corner is an obvious positive for Malagacy. The trainer won the Kentucky Derby with Super Saver in 2010. He won the Belmont Stakes twice, including a win with the sensational Rags to Riches.
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